Secret Chapter- Their Brazen Bride

THEIR BRAZEN BRIDEtheir_brazen_bride_web

© 2016 Vanessa Vale

PROLOGUE

Abigail

“I will kill her now”—Paul Grimsby cocked the gun, the sound of it making me jump—“or you can save her. You decide.”

He had the look of a man not to be trifled with. Tall and lean, he seemed as if he’d been stretched on a Medieval rack. His curly hair was tamed with pomade, and the cut of his suit was the latest fashion. But he was anything but a gentleman. Especially since he held a gun to my friend’s head.

I glanced over my shoulder at the man, one of Mr. Grimsby’s oversized and brutish lackeys, who blocked the room’s only exit.

“What… what is it you want from me, exactly?” My voice was shrill with nerves. Sweat trickled down between my breasts. I wrung my hands as my knees practically knocked. I hadn’t been invited to the Grimsby house, I’d been accompanied by the man at the door and another who had ventured off somewhere in the big house. The journey across Butte from my finishing school was only ten blocks or so, but it had felt interminable. I’d spent the time considering ways to escape them; I was walking down a busy street. Screaming I was being kidnapped was at the top of the list of possibilities. But the two henchmen who’d flanked me had warned if I so much as waved to someone on the street, my school friend Tennessee Bennett would be killed.

I remember the first time I met her, commented on her unusual name. She’d said her parents named her and her two sisters after states. Georgia and Virginia were fine names, but she’d been burdened with Tennessee, a definite mouthful.

“Money, of course,” he replied evenly. A clock on the mantel over the fireplace chimed the hour. The room was so civilized, but the conversation was anything but.

It seemed Mr. Grimsby had every intention to do so. Kill Tennessee, that was. Shockingly, he’d already killed her father who’d come in town for the school’s graduation and to accompany her back to North Dakota. Mr. Grimsby had no remorse, no conscience. I glanced at Tennessee, sitting stiffly in a high-backed chair, her usually bright complexion now matched a bed sheet. She looked at me with pleading eyes, tears streaming down her cheeks. She’d gotten herself into this predicament, and had pulled me in unwittingly as well. Eager for a suitor, she’d been bold with her attentions for Mr. Grimsby, one of the more successful and wealthy businessmen in town. Not only was he rich, but attractive—she thought him so, where I’d found him quite unappealing—and, most importantly, a bachelor.

Eager for money over love, she’d wanted to land a rich husband but had lied to Mr. Grimsby about the wealth and station of her family from the very beginning. She wasn’t a railroad heiress as she’d said, simply a second daughter of a banker from Fargo. The guise was innocent enough and done by many a woman throughout time to improve her lot in life, but Mr. Grimsby seemed to want Tennessee’s nonexistent inheritance more than the woman herself. He wasn’t as rich as he seemed, either. If he weren’t a madman, they’d make a perfect match. But when the truth came out about Tennessee’s perfidy, he’d become enraged; her father’s dead body left in the street and the black eye on her face were indication of this.

And the gun pointed at her head.

“I don’t have money,” I replied, wetting my lips.

“You don’t have looks, but you’ve got money.”

Mr. Grimsby’s eyes narrowed on my cheek with something akin to revulsion, and he shook with rage. I was used to being taunted about my scar, but I was glad he had not found any kind of attraction to me as he had Tennessee. She was beautiful, poised, and gentle hearted. “I know your background, your brother. You might not have cash on hand, but he has one of the largest ranches in this corner of the territory.”

I was surprised he wasn’t forcing me to marry him instead. If he wanted money badly enough, he would overlook the scar. But no. He was too vain for the likes of me and wanted a beautiful bride. Tennessee. Not me. For once, I was happy to have been disfigured.

“Land and cattle. That’s all he has,” I replied. “I can’t bring you a cow.”

I bit my lip, knowing it wasn’t the right thing to say, for he while he dropped the gun from Tennessee’s head, he closed the distance between us and grabbed my arm. I cried out at his cruel hold. Flinched.

“I don’t want a fucking cow,” he hissed, spittle flying. “I want money or something to sell for money.”

“All right,” I replied. What else could I say? He’d killed Tennessee’s father to punish her for her lies. What was keeping him from lifting the gun to my head and pulling the trigger? “I’ll… bring you something to sell.”

He released his hold, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand with the gun.

“You have a week.” He turned and pointed at Tennessee, who was now crying in earnest. “One week and then I kill her.”

I nodded numbly, my heart beating frantically. I was going home anyway now with graduation behind us. I wasn’t sure how I would be able to return, but I’d worry about that later.

“If you don’t come back, my men will find you.” He waved the gun in front of my face, and my eyes followed the lethal weapon.

I retreated a step. He didn’t do anything, so I took another tentative one, then another, afraid to turn my back on him. Tennessee was still crying.

“Don’t leave me here!” she cried, holding her hand out to me to take.

It hurt to leave her behind, but if I was going to save her, I had to go. I heard the door open, and it was only then when I turned. The henchman held the door for me and escorted me out into the street, my friend’s sobs following. I had to help my friend. I had to return home and find something I could bring back to appease Mr. Grimsby. Something James wouldn’t miss. Otherwise, she would die. And if I didn’t do it in the week, he’d send someone after my brother. I’d saved him as a little girl. I couldn’t let him die now.

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